Medea Electronica, Pleasance Islington
This one woman (and two backing musicians) show is a tour de force. The story may be old as time but the modern twist of basically turning it into a concept album breathes new life into this ‘woman scorned’ tale. Mella Faye commands the stage and respect as Medea – a woman at first fulfilling the duties of her sex, but later given to violent revenge.
Medea descent into darkness is accompanied by a Peter Gabriel-esque soundtrack that nods to the best of 80s electronica. Perhaps the second half of the album/show was a bit samey. But to be fair the same is true of many a concept album of the time.
The show is performed as a gig with offstage characters added as disconnected voices, phone calls or answerphone messages. This increases the focus on Medea herself. This is very much her show. Set in the 1980s, Medea starts off wearing a classic 80s housewife dress. Shoulder-pads, but not a power suit. As she breaks from her husband and is driven into a pathway of desperation and evil thought she adopts lipstick and a much sexier garb. I am not clear what the takeaway is here. Are evil women sexier? Or does embracing our sexuality make women more prone to the kinds of evil Medea acts on? Either way that was a directorial choice I felt detracted from the overall message.
The gig format does have its issues. For me, seeing a gig is about the moments when a song you’ve long loved transports you to a different emotional time and place. A play challenges you in the here and now. With staging this gig-like, keeping focus was sometimes harder than it might be. But that was less often true than it would have been with a less adroit central performance.
However, overall I really enjoyed this powerful performance. The music was catchy and the song and drama choices arresting. Faye has a wonderful voice and an incredible stage presence. Bringing an up to date twist to this classic tale is an impressive feat and one she delivers with aplomb.
Medea Electronica is on until 23 February https://www.pleasance.co.uk/event/medea-electronica-0#overview
The article has been amended.-28/02/2019